MDN: Scenarios Emerge to Keep East Memphis Bookstore Going
For sale: One beloved, 32-year-old independent bookstore. Asking price? $800,000. That’s what Booksellers at Laurelwood owner Neil Van Uum says he’d accept to unload the store, days after announcing its impending closure and a liquidation sale that begins on Friday, Jan. 6.
He’s also talking with people about a variety of different scenarios, sparking some degree of hope that a closure might still be avoided. One such possibility – lining up an investor who would put up something in the range of $400,000 to carry the store forward in a smaller space, along the lines of 5,000 square feet, compared with the 25,000 square feet it occupies now.
“I’m selling the fact you can make a great business out of 5,000 square feet if you can get the right deal,” Van Uum said. “You just need the right deal on a piece of real estate, and it’d be a great investment. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the right person.”
That’s the scenario he wants to see materialize. And he’s hopeful. The store was “packed” with customers in the days after word spread of the closure, he noted. And he’s talking to people who’ve asked what they can do to help.
While he doesn’t rule out accepting an offer from someone who wants to buy the store as-is, Van Uum says the current economics are essentially untenable. That includes his assessment about the store being too big and paying too much in rent as a consequence.
It’s the second time for the store to be in such a position in recent years. The Laurelwood mainstay, formerly known as Davis-Kidd Booksellers, got caught up in the aftermath in late 2010 of Davis-Kidd’s parent company filing for bankruptcy. Some stores in the former chain were bought out, while others closed.
Van Uum, who had founded Davis-Kidd’s parent company, left it to run The Booksellers at Laurelwood directly. He oversaw a renovation of the store that included expanding the children’s section and updating the café menu, among other things.
Van Uum said he’s talking to a group now that “maybe has got the wherewithal to make something happen,” and could buy the inventory and assets of the company. His dream, though, is for a slimmed-down Booksellers at Laurelwood to get the chance to press forward.
“That store would I believe be pretty viable,” he said.